Listing your property on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) gets you on Realtor.com, a national website that gets over 6 million visitors per month, and assures buyers’ agents that you will “cooperate” (pay them a commission) if they bring you a buyer who closes escrow.
In the past, you had to list your property with a full-service listing agent in order to get on the MLS, but no more. It’s now possible to get an MLS listing for a low flat fee. Here are the terms you should insist on from your flat-fee broker:
1. An Open Listing or an Exclusive Agency Listing with a cancellation clause
Both of these contracts allow you to find a buyer on your own without paying a commission. You can revoke an Open Listing Agreement at any time. Adding a cancellation clause to an Exclusive Agency Listing also allows you to get out of it whenever you want.
2. A contract signed by the flat-fee broker promising to forward all buyer inquiries to you
The Realtor Associations who manage the MLSs won’t allow sellers’ names and phone numbers to be displayed on Realtor.com or other public websites. Buyers are only allowed to see the flat-fee broker’s contact information. Some flat-fee brokers take advantage of this--when they get inquiries, they offer to show the home to the buyer in order to capture the buyer’s agent’s commission for themselves. Don’t let that happen--it could cost you thousands of dollars.
3. Posting on the proper MLS
Make sure your flat-fee broker promises to put your listing on the appropriate MLS for your county or region. If a broker lists you on an out-of-area MLS, you’ll get very few responses from local buyers’ agents.
4. The ability to rent a SUPRA electronic lockbox
Licensed agents have special keys that allow them to open these lockboxes to get keys to homes that are on the market. Many flat-fee brokers don’t carry these lockboxes, and you can only rent them from the broker who lists your property. If you use a combination lockbox from a hardware store, you'll find yourself repeatedly giving out the combination over the phone without being able to verify that the caller is indeed an agent.
5. Assurance that your listing will appear on secondary MLS real estate websites
Getting on these websites increases your home’s exposure.
6. The ability to make changes to your listing
Flat-fee brokers usually allow this, but some charge a fee for each change. You should be able to request up to five changes without paying a fee.
7. A Comparative Market Analysis
A CMA gives detailed information about comparable homes that have sold in recent months. It can be a useful tool for establishing an asking price.
8. Willingness to post multiple photos
Most flat-fee brokers will NOT post multiple photos on Realtor.com, since doing so is prohibitively expensive. But make sure your MLS broker is willing to post multiple photos on secondary websites. By the way, a trick for getting multiple photos onto Realtor.com is to order a virtual tour package. For less than $200, many virtual tour providers will create an "e-gallery" with a virtual tour and still photos that can be accessed by clicking a “spinning red house” icon on your Realtor.com web page.